View Full Version : German Kamikazi pilots

tony draper
18th Sep 2002, 21:41
There was a pretty good documentry on discovery this afternoon about the German V weapons.
I was aware that V1's had been modified for manned flight, I had read that that German lady test pilot who's name escapes me had flown one.
The program stated that 15,00 people had volunteered to fly suicide missions in the man rated V1s, but it was just to much even for Adolf, and the plan was scrapped.
Thats the first time I had heard of that.
A very good documentry, I recomend it, showed the german launch crews setting up and firing a V2 from a street in Amsterdam I think it was.

19th Sep 2002, 04:17
Tony, the lady's name was Hannah Reitsch. If she's not still alive she has only died recently.

I remember seeing her interview sometime in the 80's. The lady was obviously an excellent test pilot and equally obviously still in awe of Hitler.

Biggles Flies Undone
19th Sep 2002, 14:11
She actually died in 1979.

Quite a lady. Saw an interview where she described testing some of the early jets - with one of them, the only way to get airborne was to barrel down the runway until about V1 and then stab the bakes, dip the nose to get enough airflow for elevator authority. Bit like the comparison with racing cars in those days and now - like Stirling Moss said "I remember when sex was safe and motor racing was dangerous".

19th Sep 2002, 14:21

Her Autobiography, The Sky My Kingdom

Published by Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-262-9

Well worth reading.

Mr G.

19th Sep 2002, 14:33
BFU disn't realise it was that long ago. God I'm gertting old :D

Didn't she also fly a Fiesler Storch inside a stadium at a Nazi rally once?

Spiney Norman
19th Sep 2002, 17:11
Hi Tony.
The stories about Hanna Reitsch and the so called 'suicide squadron' are true but, like most things, slightly jazzed up for TV. It's true she did promote a scheme for the development of several aircraft types for the use of a special cadre of pilots who would, if necessary, carry out suicide raids on vital targets. However, apparently there was little favourable response, except for a small number of fanatics. Reitsch initiated the scheme along with SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Otto Skorzeny and the project grew into a special experimental unit, 5./KG 200 which was formed to investigate the means required to attack very heavily defended targets. This unit had an unofficial name, Leonidas Staffel, after the King of Sparta who took on suicidal odds against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. This made the basic intention of the unit pretty obvious! Initial plans were for the use of the Me328, the FW190 converted into a piloted bomb. However, it was realised that the use of these aircraft would make it unlikely that they could penetrate the anti-aircraft screens around vital targets and as there were insufficient volunteers for such missions it would be best to look at a means of delivery for a large weapon which would be survivable, (just)! This was were the piloted V1, renamed the Reichenberg came in. I think a top tip would be to read Hanna Reitsch autobiography as she carried out a large portion of the test flying programme herself! Thus showing that she had considerable guts but was definately a fanatical believer in the Third reich! According to my 'library' 173 V1's were converted into Reichenberg variants but none were flown in action. The programme was ended in October 1944 which would, you would think, have been about the time when sufficient fanatical volunteers might have turned up. Apparently, the means of attack was to dive at the target reaching speeds of 490-530 Mph then bale-out by jettisoning the canopy, (which had to swing through 45 degrees FORWARD)! Suicidal? I think so!

P.S. Yes, she did fly an aircraft inside a hall at a Nazi party meeting but it was a tethered prototype helicopter. Can't for the life of me remember which one!

20th Sep 2002, 00:18
Hi Spiney. The helicopter was the Focke-Wulf Fa-61, designed by Henrich Focke. During February 1938, Hanna Reitsch flew it every night for three weeks during a trade show, inside the Deutschlandhalle sports arena. My information is that the thing wasn't tethered, and the picture I have doesn't show a tether attached to the aircraft.

astir 8
20th Sep 2002, 07:23
If Hanna test-flew the piloted V1 how did she get out - it wasn't landable was it?

Spiney Norman
20th Sep 2002, 08:44
Hi Pigboat.
You're spot on, the helicopter wasn't tethered. I've been trying to find some info on it but could only bring to mind the film of the event I remember seeing from some time back. Still can't find anything in writing but certainly fancy getting hold of Hanna Reitsch's auto-biography.
Re Hanna Reitsch flying the Reichenberg prototypes. It did have a landing skid fitted and she landed the aircraft. Although this was still a very tricky procedure as you'd be carrying out a dead stick landing on an aircraft which is not endowed with good gliding capabilities! Reports seem to indicate that the launch was also fraught with danger as it was carried out from under the wing of an He111, never from a ground launch ramp. The Reichenberg had a tendancy to pitch up on launch and could strike its tail on the launch aircraft. Reitsch experienced one of these occurences. She also had an incident when sand ballast fitted to the aircraft in lieu of the warhead broke free and Reitsch managed to crash-land the aircraft. Apparently German press reports of the time stated that this incident had resulted in Reitsch suffering serious injuries but this was not actually so. She had in fact been injured in an accident flying the Me163B Komet. There were four models of the Reichenberg. The Reichenberg 1 with landing skid and flaps but no pulse jet. Reichenberg II, which had a second cockpit in place of the warhead, and no pulse jet. RIII, with landing skid,flaps, and a single seat cockpit. This variant had the Argus As014 engine fitted. The operational version, the Reichenberg IV which was basically a powered V1 with a single seat cockpit, rudimentary instruments, no flaps and no landing skid.


20th Sep 2002, 12:43
You can borrow my copy of the book if you like, Tony. It's a bit dog-eared now, so no risk involved in posting to you!

21st Sep 2002, 01:35
Spiney, the info I have comes from the Time-Life series of books "The Epic Of Flight." The twenty three volumes series was published back in the late seventies - early eighties. It's not the definitive history of flight, but the series does supply a lot of interesting info. Being from the editors of Life magazine the photos are excellent, however.